A food's lover guide! What to eat in Ireland
Food is expensive in Ireland, although quality has improved enormously in the last ten years. Most small towns will have a supermarket and many have a weekly farmers’ market. The cheapest option for eating out is either fast food or pubs. Many pubs offer a carvery lunch consisting of roasted meat, vegetables and the ubiquitous potatoes, which is usually good value. Selection for vegetarians is limited outside the main cities. The small town of Kinsale near Cork has become internationally famous for its many excellent restaurants, especially fish restaurants. In the northwest of the country Donegal Town is fast becoming the seafood capital of Ireland.
Irish cuisine can charitably be described ashearty: virtually all traditional meals involve meat (especially lamb and pork), potatoes, and cabbage. Long cooking times are the norm and spices are limited to salt and pepper. Classic Irish dishes include:
Seafood Chowder, Irish seafood soup, a MUST; every restaurant have their own recipe, delicious!
Guinness Bread, like it says in the title, a brow bread which is sweet.Oysters, try the Atlantic and Pacific types.Boxty, potato pancakes. Champ, mashed potatoes with spring onions .Coddle, a stew of potatoes, pork sausages and bacon; a speciality of Dublin. Colcannon, mashed potatoes and cabbage.
Irish breakfast, a famously filling spread of bacon, eggs, beans in tomato sauce, fried tomato, mushrooms, hash brown, sausages andwhite and/or black pudding, a type of pork sausage made with blood (black) or without (white). Irish Breakfast is often just referred to as a “fry” or fry up, and is usually available well past normal breakfast times in restaurants.Mixed Grill. Similar to the Irish Breakfast, but with added lamb chop, pork chop, steak, chips, and peas.Irish stew, a stew of potatoes and lamb (not beef!), with carrots, celery and onions in a watery broth full of flavour.Bacon and Cabbage, popular and traditional meal in rural Ireland, found on many menus.Seafood Pie, a traditional dish of chunky fish pieces topped with mashed potato and melted cheese.
Note that the first four listed dishes (and their names) vary regionally, and are not common throughout the entire country.
However the days when potatoes were the only thing on the menu are long gone, and modern Irish cuisine emphasizes fresh local ingredients, simply prepared and presented (sometimes with some Mediterranean-style twists). Meat (especially lamb), seafood and dairy produce is mostly of an extremely high quality.
Try some gorgeous soda bread, made with buttermilk and leavened with bicarbonate of soda rather than yeast. It is heavy, tasty and almost a meal in itself!
Only basic table manners are considered necessary when eating out, unless you’re with company that has a more specific definition of what is appropriate. As a general rule, so long as you don’t make a show of yourself by disturbing other diners there’s little else to worry about. It’s common to see other customers using their mobile phones — this sometimes attracts the odd frown or two but goes largely ignored. If you do need to take a call, keep it short and try not to raise your voice. The only other issue to be concerned about is noise — a baby crying might be forgivable if it’s resolved fairly quickly, a contingent of adults laughing very loudly every couple of minutes or continuously talking out loud may attract negative attention. However, these rules are largely ignored in fast-food restaurants, pubs and some more informal restaurants.
Finishing your meal
At restaurants with table service, some diners might expect the bill to be presented automatically after the last course, but in Ireland it seems to be the custom that you must affirmatively ask for it to be delivered. Usually coffee and tea are offered at the end of the meal when removing dishes, and if you don’t want any, the best response would be “No thank you, just the bill, please.” Otherwise the staff will assume you wish to linger until you specifically hail them and ask for the bill.
Written by The Travel Valet
Photo courtesy of Fáilte Ireland